December 16, 2018

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Heart of the park

Iconic pavilion a real work of art

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The pavilion at Assiniboine Park has undergone extensive renovations and is now the home to WAG @ The Park, a series of art exhibits hosted in conjunction with the Winnipeg Art Gallery.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The pavilion at Assiniboine Park has undergone extensive renovations and is now the home to WAG @ The Park, a series of art exhibits hosted in conjunction with the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/3/2017 (636 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Close your eyes and imagine Assiniboine Park.

You’re picturing the pavilion, aren’t you? It is, after all, one of the park’s most recognizable landmarks. Heck, it’s one of Winnipeg’s recognizable landmarks, its iconic bell tower reaching for a blue Prairie sky, Canadian flag flapping in the breeze.

In 2016, the pavilion shut its doors for eight months so it could get a little TLC. The $2.3-million renovation to the pavilion was not scheduled as part of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s $200-million redevelopment plan, but, as Trevor Clearwater, the conservancy’s senior director of business development and sales, says: “When you start seeing moisture around priceless works of art, things tend to move a little quicker.”

In 2015, the conservancy noticed water damage in the third-floor Ivan Eyre Gallery, which was the result of condensation build up and a leaky roof. The roof was redone, as well as a complete gutting and redesign of the gallery. From there, an energy efficiency assessment was conducted on the exterior, resulting in new windows and insulation.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/3/2017 (636 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Close your eyes and imagine Assiniboine Park.

You’re picturing the pavilion, aren’t you? It is, after all, one of the park’s most recognizable landmarks. Heck, it’s one of Winnipeg’s recognizable landmarks, its iconic bell tower reaching for a blue Prairie sky, Canadian flag flapping in the breeze.

In 2016, the pavilion shut its doors for eight months so it could get a little TLC. The $2.3-million renovation to the pavilion was not scheduled as part of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s $200-million redevelopment plan, but, as Trevor Clearwater, the conservancy’s senior director of business development and sales, says: "When you start seeing moisture around priceless works of art, things tend to move a little quicker."

In 2015, the conservancy noticed water damage in the third-floor Ivan Eyre Gallery, which was the result of condensation build up and a leaky roof. The roof was redone, as well as a complete gutting and redesign of the gallery. From there, an energy efficiency assessment was conducted on the exterior, resulting in new windows and insulation.

The second floor is home to the Winnie the Pooh Gallery.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The second floor is home to the Winnie the Pooh Gallery.

The discovery of moisture created a few headaches, to be sure, but it also created an opportunity to reimagine the pavilion’s role as a civic art gallery.

The pavilion is home to the largest collections of works by Manitoba artists Eyre, Walter J. Phillips, and Clarence Tillenius. After an extensive restoration in 1998, the pavilion began hosting free art exhibitions featuring works from these collections.

"As I was looking to create new reasons to visit, I began talking to Stephen Borys, the director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)," Clearwater says. A partnership was born.

WAG @ The Park was launched in the fall of 2016. The WAG will curate free art exhibits that draw from both the conservancy’s collections and the WAG’s collections.

"As a curator of Canadian art, it’s just fantastic," says Andrew Kear, who is the curator of historical Canadian art at the WAG. "The improvements they’ve made to the third floor are spectacular. These pristine white walls, top-of-the-line gallery lighting."

Trevor Clearwater takes a load off in the John P. Crabb Gallery.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Trevor Clearwater takes a load off in the John P. Crabb Gallery.

The new third-floor space is bright and airy; windows that were covered during the 1998 restoration have been opened to allow for natural light.

The rotating art exhibits at the pavilion will always include works by Eyre, Phillips and Tillenius, augmented with works from the WAG.

"This may sound somewhat counterintuitive, but I love limitations," Kear says. "I love when you are thrown into exhibition situations where you have to deal with a limited number of works, or a limited number of artists, or a limited theme. When limitations are imposed on you, you think more creatively."

The Kear-curated Competing Natures, which opened this month in the second-floor John P. Crabb Gallery, is a good example of that creativity, bringing together the sublime landscapes of Phillips and the strange hybrid creatures of Winnipeg-born, New York-based artist Marcel Dzama. The show will run for the next few months, as will Wasteland Dreamland: Early Works by Ivan Eyre on the third floor. The WAG’s annual Through the Eyes of a Child student exhibit opens this week at the pavilion.

With the galleries back up and running, the focus is on finishing the main floor. Clearwater says those renovations, which include the pavilion’s idyllic restaurant space, are weeks away from completion.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The windows and insulation in the atrium dining room have been replaced.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The windows and insulation in the atrium dining room have been replaced.

The atrium dining room has been outfitted with new windows and insulation. The light fixtures are in, and the first coat of paint is up. A wall to an underused meeting room has been removed, creating space for a 35-seat lounge in addition to the dining room. On the patio — which is a hidden gem in the city — the pavers have been lifted and levelled, and the interior of the pond has been redone.

"It really is an overhaul," Clearwater says. "Not that it wasn’t beautiful before, but it needed work."

All the pavilion needs now is a restaurant tenant to fill a gap left by Terrace in the Park. Assiniboine Park’s other flagship restaurant, the Park Café in the Qualico Family Centre, has been a boon to visitors, but it closes at 4 p.m. There’s nowhere to grab a bite and enjoy a glass of wine on a warm summer night.

Clearwater says the conservancy has an open mind when it comes to prospective restaurant concepts for the 5,250-square-foot space.

"The key is to have someone with the creativity and capacity to open something compelling, and animates that amenity again for the park and the city," he says. "At the end of the day, that’s what we’re after."

While there are a lot of shiny new places popping up in Assiniboine Park, the pavilion remains an important part of its identity. Clearwater shares a story about being at the airport in Denver and seeing a photo of the pavilion on the screen at the Winnipeg departure gate. It was being used as a visual representation of Winnipeg to international travellers.

"When you’re from Winnipeg, you understand it’s an important place, but then you see things like that, and it really drives home that it’s one of the most iconic and historic buildings in all of the city," he says. "We take a great deal of pride in that. It is the figurative heart of the park."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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History

Updated on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 6:28 AM CDT: Adds photos

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